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Sheriff opens belated Beloit homicide case

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ANN MARIE AMES
October 7, 2011
— New information has convinced Rock County sheriff's detectives that the Sept. 18 death of a rural Beloit woman was a homicide.

A family member found Marjorie A. Sands, 91, dead in her home at 2236 E. West Hart Road, Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said.


The address is in Turtle Township on Beloit's east side.


Spoden declined to say if investigators had any suspects.


A Rock County deputy coroner initially determined the cause of death was "accidental blunt force trauma to the head," according to a news release from the sheriff's office.


Sands' funeral was Sept. 22, according to the obituary published in the Gazette. The next day, police got information that was "suspicious in nature," according to the news release.


Sands' body was exhumed, and a forensic pathologist conducted an autopsy at the Dane County Morgue, said Rock County Chief Deputy Coroner Lou Smit.


Smit would not say whether another autopsy had been conducted earlier, before officials got the suspicious information. Autopsies are common during death investigations, he said.


Death investigations typically are conducted when a person dies unexpectedly, Smit said. The investigations help determine if a natural event or an accident caused the death, he said.


In the Sands case, the "facts and circumstances all seemed to line up" in a way that did not make the death suspicious, Smit said.


"Within a week, new information was developed," Smit said. "And from that information, additional information was developed that led to the change of the nature of the investigation."


Initial reports from the forensic autopsy revealed inconsistencies between the injuries and the original reports, Spoden said.


"Ms. Sands did not appear to have injuries consistent with a fall," Spoden said.


Spoden expects additional information from the autopsy.


The homicide investigation is unusual because it didn't start the day Sands' body was found, Spoden said.


"This is not your typical homicide investigation," Spoden said. "It presents some challenges we normally wouldn't experience."


Neither Spoden nor Smit would say what led the deputy coroner to determine the death was accidental. They would not say how she appeared to have died or how long she had been dead before the death was reported.


Sands was an active, vibrant person who had a good relationship with her family, Spoden said.


"From what her family has told us, she was a woman who really had a great outlook on life," he said.


Spoden said people living near Sands' home should not be fearful. They should be vigilant and report any suspicious information, he said. Things that seem trivial could be valuable clues, he said.


The sheriff's office will have a strong presence in the neighborhood for some time to watch for suspicious activity and reassure neighbors, Spoden said.


Anyone with information can call the sheriff's office at (608) 757-7925.



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